You can't make enough creamy mashed potatoes to cover up a really tough, dry turkey on Thanksgiving. Your centerpiece needs to dazzle, and that means it better be spraying juice out as you bite into a leg.
The biggest challenge in keeping your turkey moist as the skin crackles is simply the distractions of other food (and dinner guests) in the room: You cannot neglect the bird.
Keep your eye on the prize and follow these before, during, and after tips to have your most moist turkey yet.
Step 1 -- Brine
If you do nothing else with Tom Turkey, start the day before and brine that sucker within an inch of his life. The salt water combo (and herbs, don't forget the herbs!) soaks your turkey enough to withstand its long stay in the oven. You really can't mess this up. Trust me, I've tried.
Step 2 -- Baste
Don't forget your bird once you pop it in the oven. If you don't keep it moist, you'll have bits of dryness up top and moist on bottom. That's just weird. Tip: Be sure to check your cabinet for a turkey baster before the big day, as you don't want to get stuck having to spoon the juices all over the turkey. That's the fastest way to make sure you will "forget" to do the laborious work every 45 minutes.
Step 3 -- Stop Cooking Before It's Time
Overcooking a turkey is the most common way people wind up with dusty meat. To make sure it cooks thoroughly, but not overly, be sure the turkey is thawed out, the breast side is up, and you don't use the foil tent to keep the skin from browning the entire cooking time. Use this handy chart to see how long you should cook your bird by poundage. Remember your bird will be sitting in its own juices, still cooking after you pull it out of the oven, so once the thermometer starts getting close to done (180 for the thigh, 170 for the breast) and the juices are running clear, you can turn off the oven.
Step 4 -- Dammit! I Didn't Listen & Now My Bird Is Dry
Way to go. But don't worry, all is not lost. Three possible solutions:
- Make a killer gravy and hope it soaks into the meat.
- Tell everyone you're now a vegetarian and no turkey will be served.
- Offer up a speciality cocktail of the strongest order so no one notices if you even serve food.
Happy Turkey Day!
Image via D'arcy Norman/Flickr